The story has been told much too often in the past couple of decades. You know, the one about factories closing in this country because trends in the global manufacturing economy have effectively exported jobs from the U.S. to overseas locations. As centers of manufacturing strength take root and gain strength in foreign countries, these nations and their economies reap the myriad benefits of an industrialized economy. If you follow the news in the forging industry, you soon notice that much of it comes from India. Similar to the way in which the Indian city of Bangalore has emerged as a global player in service- and information-based products and services, the Pune region in Western India has evolved into a center of manufacturing expertise.
Here, companies like Bharat Forge are becoming powerhouses of industrial might. Bharat Forge, for example, boasts the world’s largest forge shop and claims a prestigious group of customers like DaimlerChrysler, Toyota and Ford. It is the flagship company of the $1.5 billion Kalyani Group with operations in China, Germany, Sweden, Scotland and the U.S.
The success of Bharat Forge is but one case of shifting global manufacturing paradigms. The U.S. may well be the world’s largest manufacturing economy, but American manufacturing lost 3 million jobs between 2000 and 2004, a 17% drop. During that same period, the U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods rose 42%. This means America’s appetite for manufactured goods is increasingly being satisfied by foreign producers.
Some may recall that in the post-World War II era, American manufacturing – through the goods it produced and the jobs it created – elevated the U.S. economy to the pinnacle of world superiority. More recently, the factors that contributed to this success have diminished. This country has collectively pursued policies that have eaten their way into the cornerstone of our way of life. The legislators, administrators, regulators, judges and juries, labor unions, tax men, environmentalists, importers, exporters, bankers, lawyers, accountants, and others have all taken a bite out of manufacturing’s hide in the past fifty years. They have, often unwittingly, brought American manufacturing into a defensive posture from which it is now striving to recover.
In early 2004, then-Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans submitted a departmental report entitled Manufacturing in America. In that report the following statement is made: “Manufacturing is crucial to the U.S. economy. Every individual and industry depends on manufactured goods. In addition, innovations and productivity gains in the manufacturing sector provide benefits far beyond the products themselves.”
Given the trend toward declining manufacturing strength in the U.S. economy, it is not surprising to see that manufacturing industries have teamed up with various partners to at least slow, if not reverse, the overall trend. The forging industry has teamed up with the Department of Energy, through its Industries of the Future program, to define forging initiatives important to the industry’s future efficiency and competitiveness.
Similarly, the Department of Defense has teamed up with the Forging Industry Association (FIA) to form the Forging Industry Association Department of Defense Manufacturing Consortium (FDMC). The FDMC program is an integrated portfolio of projects that includes Business Enterprise Integration, the FORGE-IT initiative and Technical Research.
We applaud and encourage activities that strengthen this industry. Partnerships with government agencies, the leadership of FIA and its various committees, and the dedication of educational and research programs under the direction of FIERF are vital in helping to keep America’s forging industry a viable economic entity in this country.
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